- The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) was established in 1946 as one of the six principal organs of the UN. It is generally viewed as the apex of the UN system.
- It is responsible for the maintenance of international peace and security.
- Its powers include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, the establishment of international sanctions, and the authorization of military action through Security Council resolutions.
- It is the only UN body with the authority to issue binding resolutions to member states.
- UNSC consists of 15 Members.
- The council has five permanent members (P-5) United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom and France.
- These permanent members can veto any substantive Security Council resolutions, including those on the admission of new member states.
- The Security Council also has 10 non-permanent members, elected on a regional basis as follows:
- five for African and Asian States;
- one for Eastern European States;
- two for the Latin American and Caribbean States; and
- two for Western European and other States.
- Each year the 193-member UN General Assembly (UNGA) elects five non-permanent members for a two-year term.
- The body’s presidency rotates monthly among its members.
Vote and Majority Required
- Each member of the Security Council shall have one vote.
- Decisions of the Security Council on procedural matters shall be made by an affirmative vote of nine members.
- Decisions of the Security Council on all other matters shall be made by an affirmative vote of nine members including the concurring votes of the permanent members.
- However, any member, whether permanent or nonpermanent, must abstain from voting in any decision concerning the peaceful settlement of a dispute to which it is a party.
Why in News?
- The UK has called for the expansion of the UN Security Council’s permanent seats to include India, Brazil, Germany and Japan as well as African representation.
- India is working alongside other reform-oriented countries through its membership in G-4 and the L.69 Group for building support among the UN Member States for expansion in both permanent and non-permanent categories.
- The G4 nations comprise Brazil, Germany, India and Japan which support each other’s bids for permanent seats on the UNSC.
- L.69 is a group of developing countries from Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific. They form a major bloc that is united by the common cause of achieving the lasting and comprehensive reform of the UNSC.
India’s quest for permanent seat in UNSC
- For decades, India has sought a comprehensive reform of the UNSC and permanent membership at the Council along with Germany, Japan and Brazil.
- In recent years, New Delhi has made the theme of “reformed multilateralism” central to its diplomacy—calling the UN structure that came into existence in the immediate aftermath of World War 2 “anachronistic” and in need of urgent change.
- The arguments put forward by India centered on four aspects for making the Council more representative: Expansion of Membership, Veto power, Regional Representation & Relationship between Security Council and General Assembly.
Expansion of Membership
- In India’s eyes, no reform of the UN is complete without the composition of the Security Council changing to reflect contemporary realities of the twenty-first century.
- This requires expansion in the membership of the Security Council in both the permanent and non – permanent categories.
- India has also highlighted the need of Africa to be represented in both categories.
- On the question of veto, the Indian position is fully aligned with G4, L.69 and Africa who have called for the abolition of veto.
- On the question of regional representation, India has argued for an equitable geographical representation and the urgent need for mitigating the non-representation and under-representation of some regions in both the permanent and the non-permanent categories.
- The UN has three of the five permanent members from one region alone while the regions of Africa, Latin America, three-fourths of Asia including the Arab states, the entire Central and Eastern Europe, the Caribbean states and the Small Island developing states remain excluded from the functioning of the Security Council.
- The Security Council, for India, needs to reflect contemporary realities and provide adequate representation to all regions of the world.
Relationship Between Security Council and General Assembly
- On the issue of the relationship between the Security Council and the General Assembly, in India’s view, it should not be competitive or adversarial, but “one of synergy and complementarity” which benefits the UN objectives of the promotion of international peace and security.
- A relationship with the General Assembly based on transparency, mutual trust and frequent interaction with all Member States will increase the credibility of the Council that includes increase in dialogue between the Council and the Assembly.
- India thus has called for a greater transparency and consistency to improve the relationship between the two.
What is the issue?
- While the US, France, Britain and Russia are not averse to India joining the UNSC as a permanent member, China has been opposed to it.
- There is also reportedly no unanimity among the permanent veto-wielding five – US, UK, France, Russia and China – to share its veto powers with any new members for fears of diluting the influence and authority they currently wield.
- An informal “coffee club”, comprising 40-odd member states (including Italy, Spain, Australia, Canada, South Korea, Argentina and Pakistan) has been instrumental in holding back reforms to the UNSC. Most members of the club are middle-sized states who oppose bigger regional powers grabbing permanent seats in the UN Security Council.